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After a brief upswing, the Philadelphia Flyers have returned to their losing ways.
They'll try to avoid another defeat Monday when they visit the surging Toronto Maple Leafs.
Philadelphia, off to one of the worst starts in team history, shook things up two weeks ago with the firing of coach Ken Hitchcock shortly after the resignation of GM Bob Clarke.
Under interim coach John Stevens, the Flyers (3-9-1) responded with two wins in three contests to stop a five-game losing streak. However, Philadelphia has dropped its last two games by a combined score of 10-5.
The Flyers gave up four first-period goals Saturday en route to a 5-3 loss to Washington, the end of a season-high five-game homestand for Philadelphia.
"We talked about having a good start, and we came out down 4-1," Flyers captain Peter Forsberg said. "To be honest, we aren't playing good enough to win any hockey games, either. Right now it's just a tough time and if you don't work hard, we're not going to get out of it."
The only games this season the Flyers have allowed less than three goals were in their three victories. They're last in the NHL with seven points.
"For me, one of the first signs you want to see is when you get down, do you keep playing or do you just pack it in and go away?" Stevens said. "Tonight, clearly, we didn't do that and we poured it in to try to get back in the hockey game and for me that is a step in the right direction."
Stevens may think the Flyers are on the right track, but it only gets tougher for Philadelphia when it visits a Toronto team that has won four of its last five games, including a 4-1 win Saturday at Buffalo, which suffered its first regulation loss.
The Maple Leafs (8-5-3) have 19 goals over their last five games and have allowed only one power-play goal during that span.
"For us, we're still looking for an identity and consistency to be a good team in this league," said Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who had two goals and an assist against the Sabres and has eight points in his last four games. "I thought tonight we were a good team. It's been up and down for us lately, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction for this club."
After going 2-1 on a road trip, the Maple Leafs play the Flyers, and another struggling team, the Boston Bruins, who have only 10 points and are tied for second-fewest in the Eastern Conference.
"The danger is assuming that (the Flyers and Bruins) are worse than Buffalo," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "We said it at the start of the year, we'll have to scratch and claw to make the playoffs. That's not a statement about our team, it's a statement about the league. And that's why you get those bouts of inconsistency. The league is inconsistent. It's a fight every night. If you have enough jump and you do enough simple things and get goaltending, you can win.
"Philadelphia and Boston will be as much of a challenge as tonight's game was. And we have to manufacture that jump."
The Maple Leafs won three of the four meetings with the Flyers last season. The teams don't meet again until Feb. 15 in Philadelphia.